The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of July 26
What an interesting weekend at the fights with more on the way!
In this week's edition, we take a look at Sergey Kovalev's demolition of overmatched mandatory contender Nadjib Mohammedi on HBO.
Did The Krusher prove anything in his win, and what comes next?
Speaking of the light heavyweights, Jean Pascal took a highly controversial unanimous decision from Yunieski Gonzalez on the Kovalev undercard.
Did the former lineal light heavyweight kingpin get a gift?
Next, we turn our attention to upcoming action.
Gennady Golovkin finally has the big fight he's been craving.
The Kazakh bomber is set to unify middleweight titles against hard-hitting Canadian puncher David Lemieux on October 17 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
We take a look at what fans should expect from that clash, and then we preview the upcoming Premier Boxing Champions card on ESPN, which features Danny Garcia's first welterweight fight against Paulie Malignaggi and Daniel Jacobs' title defense against Sergio Mora.
These are the hottest boxing storylines for the week.
What Next for the Krusher?
Kovalev's introduction to the bright lights of prizefighting in Las Vegas went as well as you could hope.
The Krusher annihilated a completely overmatched Mohammedi to retain both his three light heavyweight belts and claim to legitimate preponderance over the division. There was nothing about the fight that was close, and there was never a second where it felt like anything more than a glorified sparring session.
And, no, that's not a criticism of Kovalev.
He had established his bona fides at light heavyweight with back-to-back dominant wins over Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal, a pair of A-list fighters who lineal champ Adonis Stevenson had chances to fight but didn't.
Mohammedi was his mandatory challenger; it was a fight nobody wanted but you sometimes have to take in boxing, and Kovalev destroyed him without mercy.
He is scheduled to return to the ring on Nov. 28 in Moscow against an opponent to be determined.
Mike Coppinger of USA Today tweeted after the fight that Main Events (Kovalev's promoter) would offer the fight to fellow undefeated Russian Artur Beterbiev.
Beterbiev defeated Kovalev in the amateurs, and a fight between the two in Russia would be massive.
Sadly, it seems destined not to happen.
Beterbiev is managed by Al Haymon, who—putting it nicely—isn't on speaking terms with Kathy Duva or her promotion at Main Events. It's often hyperbole to say that two people "hate" each other, but it might be an accurate description in this particular case.
Whoever Kovalev ends up facing in his return home later in the year, the big talk will continue to center on a budding showdown against super middleweight champion Andre Ward.
Talks have already begun for that fight, which would be one of the most anticipated clashes on the 2016 boxing calendar.
A Kazakh and a Canadian Walk into NYC...
Golovkin, the Kazakh wrecking ball who has knocked out his last 20 opponents with a cool, calculated ferocity, and Lemieux, the power-punching Canadian with his own pair of howitzers in his fists, are set to meet on October 17 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Dan Rafael of ESPN.com reports that a deal has been finalized for the two middleweight champions to unify belts in the fall on HBO pay-per-view. The final details were put together by K2 Promotions (representing GGG) and Golden Boy Promotions (representing Lemieux) for a bout that promises high-octane action and huge punches for however long it lasts.
Golovkin, despite his reputation as one of the sport's premier attractions, hasn't found it easy to attract the type of high-profile foes who would silence his few remaining doubters. Sergio Martinez didn't seem to want any part of him when he was the reigning middleweight champion, and that goes double for current kingpin Miguel Cotto, so Lemieux is a logical next step.
The Canadian slugger won a borderline Fight of the Year contender and the IBF title against former titlist Hassan N'Dam last month. There have been expressions of interest in a GGG-Lemieux clash ever since, which would unify the WBA and IBF 160-pound titles.
Some felt that Golden Boy, who only recently signed Lemieux to a promotional deal, might prefer to wait a little bit than immediately throw its newest champion into the deep waters against a fighter with a growing reputation for dominance and destruction in the ring.
But all parties deserve credit for accepting the risk to make a great fight with high stakes.
So what should the fans expect to get from this one?
Just take a look at the numbers, and you can make a pretty educated guess.
Golovkin and Lemieux combine for 67 wins with 61 of those coming by knockout. For those of us who aren't math majors, that's a knockout rate of just about 91 percent.
Let's ask the question again.
What should fans expect?
An exciting fight, for however many minutes it lasts.
Did Jean Pascal Get a Gift?
Yes, no, maybe, depending on how you want to look at it.
Pascal definitely escaped without a loss against Gonzalez, and if the Cuban's post-fight emotional outburst was any indication, most will probably feel he was robbed or deserved better. And you can certainly make that case, as most members of the media and fans in attendance did, but this was a very close fight.
Gonzalez definitely surprised many people, including Pascal, who seemed completely caught off guard by his opponent's wild but effective aggression, particularly in the early rounds. The Cuban attacked without much care for what came back his way, and it took a few rounds for the former champion to time him and get into the fight.
Once Pascal got his bearings, he was able to counter effectively and land some heavy leather of his own. There were many scintillating exchanges where defense was thrown right out the window, and both men demonstrated tremendous beards to withstand the assault.
Bleacher Report scored the contest a 95-95 draw, but if one man probably deserved to have his hand raised at the end of the night, it was Gonzalez. CompuBox tracking showed him landing nine more punches and throwing 235 more than Pascal over the course of the fight, and while that's not always a complete reflection of the action, perhaps his aggression should have been rewarded.
Not all close fights merit that designation, even if you felt one guy deserved to win.
You could have scored this one for Pascal, Gonzalez or a draw, and all would be equally valid. It was that type of fight.
Garcia vs. Malignaggi and the New Battle for Brooklyn?
Garcia, who was stripped of his WBC Junior Welterweight Championship last month, finally takes the plunge Saturday night when he faces Malignaggi as a full-fledged welterweight at the Barclays Center on PBC on ESPN.
It's really no surprise to see the Philly native making the jump to welterweight after months and months of speculation. He hasn't fought at 140 pounds since taking a controversial—gift, in many eyes—decision over Mauricio Herrera in March 2014, which was also the last time he defended his titles.
Garcia got another controversial decision, this time against Lamont Peterson, on PBC at the Barclays Center earlier this year, and Saturday will represent the fifth time he's fought at the Brooklyn arena since it began hosting major boxing late in 2012.
Malignaggi is a Brooklyn native who held shares of the welterweight title on two occasions. He's a wily veteran but hasn't fought since getting blitzed and stopped in scary fashion by Shawn Porter in April 2014.
He was originally scheduled for something of a tune-up bout against Danny O'Connor in May, but the fight was scrapped when Malignaggi suffered a nasty gash above his left eye in training just a couple of weeks out.
Some have panned this bout as just the latest example of soft or strategic matchmaking perpetrated by Haymon on his quest to build stars by protecting them against dangerous fights.
You're barking up the wrong tree if you think that about this one.
Garcia has never fought at the full welterweight limit before, and Malignaggi, a slick boxer with a style that has given Garcia serious trouble in the past, still has some gas left in the tank.
He knows all the tricks in the book, and if he can limit Garcia's chances for engagement and box effectively, you could definitely see a scenario where the hometown fighter sends the outsider packing with a loss.
Time for Daniel Jacobs to Step It Up?
Jacobs is about the most inspirational story you'll find in boxing today, and nothing that follows is meant to be a criticism of him or what he's overcome to get to this stage in boxing.
The Brooklyn native was once a highly touted prospect, but a near-fatal bout with a tumor that wrapped itself around his spine left him paralyzed and unlikely to ever walk, much less fight again.
Throughout all the struggles, Jacobs remained focused and motivated by boxing, and last year he defeated Jarrod Fletcher to become the first cancer survivor to win a world championship.
Jacobs defends his middleweight title for the second time Saturday night as the co-feature on PBC on ESPN against Sergio Mora, who is best known for his stint on the reality series The Contender. With all due respect, Mora hasn't done much recently to earn the opportunity at a world title.
Mora is a competent pro, and he's a good guy, but there are bigger and better fights knocking on the door for Jacobs. He's made it clear in the past that he doesn't choose his fights, which is true, but eventually public pressure is going to reach a point that can't be ignored.
This just isn't a fight anyone was asking for, right?
Jacobs and Peter Quillin (a former middleweight champion) have been on a collision course for a while now, and rather than both of them taking interim bouts with little interest—Quillin fights the dreaded "TBA" on Sept. 6 on PBC—why not just make this fight happen?